We all know how important love can be and are familiar with the old adage, “Love is all we need” but in reality is it truly enough when it comes to relationships with people who struggle with mental illness? I’m going to share a bit about my life and then examine this issue from both the as someone who loves a person with bipolar and then from the perspective of someone with bipolar.
The every day reality of living with me tends to involve more ups and downs than a mini roller coaster and can be something of an adventure as I’ve alluded to before. But in general it usually involves variations between slight depression, when I feel horrid because I forgot to help the kids with their homework or I tend to get teary over stupid little things. If I am in the midst of hypomania I can be elated because I got a card in the mail. I was over the moon! But, for me the other side of hypomania is that I tend to manifest by being bitchy, something that gets on everyone’s nerves (understandably) and I’ll just try to get through the evening without an argument. See? It’s a little adventure, every day. I think 95% of the time it’s about like this.
Being someone with bipolar disorder I know the pain and joy (to the extent possible) that I bring to the lives of those who love me. In my worst states, I know they make extraordinary sacrifices and suffer right alongside me sometimes, as I surf the waves just trying to stay afloat. I struggle to believe I am worth their efforts, hope, and love. It is so terrible to watch them see me do everything I can, knowing there is very little they can do to help, because in the end it is my battle to fight. They can stand beside me but they can’t do it for me. This is true in high mania just as much as in severe depression. Friends and families are left to watch from the sidelines as they pray I make it through okay. And so far I have.
Now, as a person who loves someone with bipolar I can appreciate the unique experience that it is. Loving them for all they are, in spite of and sometimes because of, their bipolar disorder. Wanting to support them but knowing that at some point I may not be able to for my own safety or sanity. At their most challenging moments, hearing their pain or excitement, feeling it even, and yet being unable to make it go away or even dampen it a bit. The hurt caused by watching that happen before my eyes is irreparable. I can move past it but it is unforgettable. My heart aches for the future ahead of them and yet at the same time I am optimistic that they can move successfully through the current situation and rise above to reach for the stars. I believe in them and their ability to do so. The only other option is one I refuse to even consider. It’s just too scary. And that is, for me anyway, one of the the core aspects of being the loved one of someone with bipolar disorder. Fear. That at any point there will be an episode they just can’t get out of and I will have to sit back and watch it (and them) spiral, in either direction, toward an unknown destination.
In the end, loving someone with bipolar means never really knowing what you’re going to be dealing with from one day to the next. There is moderate stability for most of us but more often than not that doesn’t completely eliminate the waves, just makes them more manageable, hopefully for everyone.